Saturday, September 9, 2017

U.S. commits P102M to reduce drug demand in PH

From Rappler (Sep 9): U.S. commits P102M to reduce drug demand in PH

'We look forward to working with the Philippine government,' US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim says

PH-US COOPERATION. Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and US Ambassador Sung Kim sign the 5th amendment to the Philippine-US letter of agreement on narcotics control and law enforcement on September 8, 2017. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

PH-US COOPERATION. Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and US Ambassador Sung Kim sign the 5th amendment to the Philippine-US letter of agreement on narcotics control and law enforcement on September 8, 2017. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

The room erupted in laughter on Friday, September 8, as the Philippines' top diplomat and the US ambassador exchanged a joke before dozens of officials and members of media.

It was the signing of the 5th amendment to the Philippine-US letter of agreement on narcotics control and law enforcement.

Both Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim led the event on Friday at the Carlos P. Garcia Conference Room at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City.

During this event, the US committed P102 million ($2 million) to support Philippine drug reduction programs, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wages a war on drugs.

"We look forward to working with the Philippine government," Kim said.

"I view this letter of agreement as just the start, and the Secretary was kind enough to give us two million thanks. I hope there will be many more million thanks coming forward," the US ambassador said.

Smiling, Cayetano, who did not have a microphone, made a remark that was hardly audible except for the word "billion."

"Okay, we should not be too ambitious," Kim replied in jest, as the room broke into laughter as well.

Cayetano: Thank you, American people

BETTER TIES. Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim chat at the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs on September 8, 2017, the day they sign a document on a partnership to reduce drug demand in the Philippines. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

It was a moment that spoke volumes about the warming of ties between Manila and Washington.

Duterte, after all, has blasted the US – particularly Kim's predecessor, Philip Goldberg – for supposedly meddling in his bloody drug war. The Philippine leader has also said he wants to move away from the US and closer to China.

Korean-born Kim, whom MalacaƱang earlier hailed for his Asian heritage, however has enjoyed cordial ties with Cayetano and Duterte himself. Kim, too, has overseen huge US donations to the Philippines, including P730 million ($15 million) in aid for Marawi, which he announced earlier this week.

In his own remarks, Cayetano said on Friday, "I'd like to personally thank Ambassador Kim for his personal visit to Camp Bagong Diwa, where we house a rehab center, where he spoke to our very dedicated and diligent doctors, and in fact our doctors in the rehab said that finally, there are people, there are groups, there are administrations who are paying attention to rehabilitation."

On the document signed on Friday, Cayetano also said, "We need to enhance cooperation to address not just the supply but also the demand side of the drug abuse problem."

"I am pleased to sign the agreement on behalf of the Philippine government. Thank you very much again, Ambassador, to the American people, President Trump."

Philippine Muslims called to jihad vs extremists

From Rappler (Sep 9): Philippine Muslims called to jihad vs extremists

The prolonged war with local terrorist groups is a wake-up call that prompted collective action from a region that has long suffered from violent extremism


The war with Muslim extremists in the Philippines calls for a holy war, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman told Muslim religious leaders or ulama in a conference here this week.

"Kung handang magpakamatay sila sa maling paniniwala nila, bakit hindi tayo handang magpakamatay kung tama ang ating paniniwala. Kung mayroong dapat magjihad ngayon, dapat tayong lahat (If they are ready to die for their wrong belief, why are we not willing to die if our belief is the correct one? If there are people who should launch a jihad right now, it should be us)," he said.

Hataman spoke at the Ulama-LGU Executives Multi-Sectoral Groups Conference on the Marawi Crisis held on September 6 in Cagayan de Oro.

The prolonged war with local terrorist groups – the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group – linked with the Islamic State (ISIS) in Marawi City is a wake-up call that prompted collective action from a region that has long suffered from violent extremism. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)

The Bangsamoro mufti or top Muslim legal expert in the region issued a fatwa against radical extremism, an important ruling that sent a clear stand against the ISIS ideology that, the war shows, has radicalized many young Muslims in Central Mindanao.
The issuance of the fatwa on June 25 triggered commitments from dominant Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), local officials, and Muslim religious leaders who were previously accused of dangerous ambivalence about the Maute Group.

The MILF has offered to help the military stop armed groups from reinforcing the terrorists in the Marawi battle area, guarding the parts of its stronghold Maguindanao that are bordering Lanao del Sur.

Lanao mayors signed a manifesto declaring war against the Maute Group.

In a 3-day conference in Cagayan de Oro, the members of the Ulama League of the Philippines sat down to discuss their actions on the ground to "eradicate the misguided interpretation of Islam."

"We stand firmly with the idea that any form of terror including the action of ISIS and inspired radical Islamist groups based in Lanao del Sur often known as the Maute Group, Dawlah [Islamiyah], Abu Sayyaf are purely un-Islamic," said Alibasher Aldulatif, National Speaker of the Ulama League of the Philippines.
"No religion was never mentioned that allows bombing, kidnapping, assassination and extortion. The ulama must have a unanimous stand on this issue," he added.
Pass Bangsamoro Law
ULAMA CONFERENCE. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and high-ranking generals discuss Marawi rehabilitation with the Ulama League of the Philippines. Rappler

Religious leaders and stakeholders agree that the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is crucial in addressing the problem of extremism in Mindanao. (READ: MILF, Maute Group battle for legitimacy)

The BBL seeks to create a new Bangsamoro region that will replace and will have wider powers than the current ARMM. This is opposed to the plans of the Maute Group to carve their own territory in Central Mindanao where ISIS will rule.

Hataman said the enacment of BBL alone will not stop violent extremism in Mindanao. But it's an important start.

"Alam ko hindi ito ang ultimong solution. Pero sisiguraduhin ko sa inyo, malaking bagay sa pagtapos sa problem natin sa extremista ang BBL (I know it is not the ultimate solution. But I'm assuring you, the BBL is crucial in ending the problem of extremism)," said Hataman.

"Kahit gaano katigas at kaastig ang Pangulo ng bansa, kahit gaano pa kalakas ang sandatahan ng bansa, hindi ho solusyon ang lakas at hindi po solusyon ang isang tao sa laki ng problema na hinaharap ng ating bansa. Dapat lahat tayo ang solusyon ng problemang ito," He added.

(No matter how strong the President of the country is, no matter how strong the military is, strength and one person alone are not enough to address the big problem the country is facing. We should all help in solving this problem.)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that the passage of BBL was sidelined by the war, but he assured the religious leaders that President Rodrigo Duterte is committed to its passage.

The enacment of the BBL is one of the appeals of the Ulama League of the Philippines.

It also called for a congressional inquiry into the "realities of the Marawi siege that prompted the declaration of martial law in Mindanao," additional security forces in their areas, and the urgent rehabilitation of Marawi City.

Roxas market blast suspects’ trial first to be held at Ma-a jail

From the Mindanao Times (Sep 8): Roxas market blast suspects’ trial first to be held at Ma-a jail

THE TRIAL of the five suspects in the Roxas night market bombing will be the first ever case to be held right inside the Davao City Jail in Barangay Ma-a following yesterday’s opening of the court room inside the city jail’s premises.
Judge Emmanuel Carpio, the executive judge of Regional Trial Court (RTC) in the city, told reporters yesterday that they decided to hold the hearings on the cases of the five alleged Maute Group at the city jail given the security risks posed to the public every time the accused are being transported for the trial.

With the court room already in place at the city jail, Carpio said “(we) can expect that there will be less problem of security because high-risk accused shall be tried and heard in the sala away from the public so that it is a secure place considering that it is a jail facility.”
“You can expect less hassle and less expenses on the part of all the parties. There will be no problem about security anymore because there is no need for the accused to travel from the jail facility to the courts,” Judge Carpio said.

More often than not, Carpio said, the travel time and the distance may be a good chance for the accused to escape or be rescued by some lawless elements.

He further said the cases related to the Roxas Night Market accused will be heard inside the jail’s court room “unless ultimately there might be a move for this accused to be transferred in Metro Manila.”

The five accused are set to be arraigned today in the multiple murder with multiple frustrated murder cases in connection to the Sept. 2, 2016 Roxas night market bombing.

Yesterday, the Davao City Jail court room was formally turned over by the Rotary Club of Davao City to the Davao City.

Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) XI director Jail Sr. Supt. Amelia Rayandayan said this project is one way of securing the trial of the high-risk and high-profile inmates.

“We have been transporting them from jail to court and it is quite risky. There is a need for us to secure these persons,” she said.

Randayan said having the court inside the city jail is also for public safety, noting that the high-risk and high-profile detainees pose security threat as they are considered as high-value targets.

“We have to secure them. No need for them to be transported to and from the court. It’s quite risky transferring these persons deprived of liberty under the custody of BJMP,” she said.

Jail Inspector Edo Lobenia, the chief of BJMP’s community relations service office, said the court room is not only for the five inmates involved in the Roxas night market bombing but would also include the trial and the hearing of cases of other high-risk and high-profile inmates in the city.

“We have number of high-risk and high-profile inmates in Davao City,” he said.

According to the statistics on the record, he said, the city jail has 50 members of New People’s Army (NPA), seven members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), five Maute members, and 27 inmates from the organized crime groups.

He said holding the trial inside the jail avoids the hassle of escorting the suspects in going to the court as it requires a lot of personnel, particularly in the augmentation of personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other security sectors involved.

Lobenia noted the normal security escort in every inmate for court hearing is one-is-to-one (1:1) ratio, but with the high profile inmates there is a need for a one-is-to-one-plus-one (1:1+1) ratio.

2 abductors of Zambo mayor’s son captured

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 9): 2 abductors of Zambo mayor’s son captured

Police have arrested two men who were implicated in the daring abduction of the son of a town mayor in Zamboanga del Norte province in southern Philippines, officials said Saturday.

Chief Inspector Helen Galvez, a regional police spokeswoman, said the duo – Soudi Pondusan Banguih, 36; and Edilberto Sarmago Albino, 61, were arrested in the town of Sirawai also in Zamboanga del Norte. She said a witness to the abduction Jolito Rodillos has positively identified the two suspects as among the 6 men that seized the 28-year old Jelster Ed Tiu Quimbo in Labason town late Wednesday.

The victim’s father, Ed Quimbo, is the incumbent mayor of Labason.

“Both persons allegedly were involved in the recent abduction of Jelster Tiu Quimbo in Labason, Zamboanga Del Norte based on the CCTV footage and confirmation of the witness Jolito Timanono Rodillos, who was with the victim during the incident. He directly identified that the two suspects were involved and companion with the abductors during the time of incident,” Galvez said.

She did not say how policemen tracked down Banguih and Albino, or whether the two men are members of the Abu Sayyaf or other rebel group operating in the province.